Turning passion into profession.

Monday, June 18, 2012

That Dreaded 'R' Word.

There is one thing I dread more than anything while working on a WIP, and this is...RESEARCH.

I hate researching stuff for a book. Absolutely loathe it. But I insist on doing it to the point of wanting to pull my hair out. I read every article and interview I can get my hands on, watch every documentary on YouTube, and even go to the lengths of buying a text book on the subject I'm trying to learn about. By the end of my process I could probably earn a Doctorate in whatever thing it is I'm studying.

Currently that subject would be forensic archaeology. One of the MC's in my book is a forensic archaeologist. She breaks up her time doing many different jobs including being a professor, sitting on a committee, and assisting with ancient dig sites. But mainly she spends her time with the police and FBI, helping them to solve homicides.

Before you ask, yes this is a real job. Law enforcement, especially those is large cities with the budget to do so, often receive the help of those trained in the forensic sciences; which includes anthropology, psychology, entomology, pathology, odontology, toxicology, serology, and of course archaeology. Whew, that was a mouth full :).

I chose forensic archaeology because it is one, if not the least common of them all. A forensic archaeologist will typically be called in to survey a burial site and assist the police on removing the body and all other important evidence at the scene that only a trained eye like theirs would find critical. Here is the dictionary definition to make it a little clearer:

Forensic archaeology, a forensic science, is the application of archaeological principles, techniques and methodologies in a legal context.
An expanding branch of archaeological investigation in which the methods and approaches of archaeology are applied to legal problems and in connection with the work of courts of law.
Most commonly this involves the reconstruction of a chronology and sequence of events from the deposits found within and around graves and burial sites for homicide cases and investigations into the violation of human rights.
-Oxford Dictonary

Now, where I'm trying to get at with all of this is it takes years to be an expert in this field. Countless hours in school, the lab, and out doing field work to become the type of scholar that my MC is. This is where the research comes in. And I want to ask you, where do you draw the line with research? Should your character be as close to real life as possible, or is it okay to take some creative liberties with their job?

In my opinion, I model myself after authors like Kathy Reichs and Patricia Cornwell (who happen to be experts in their forensic fields), so I believe that if it takes two pages to explain a technical forensic procedure, then you take two pages to do so. I enjoy reading those things in their books and hope people will enjoy reading it in mine.    


  1. Haha, I write fantasy, and here's me, all happy that I don't have to do much research. WRONG. My first chapter got torn apart by critiquers because the world wasn't built enough and (since it is underwater) they didn't think it mimicked an underwater atmosphere. So I had to sit down with Google images and find coral reefs and draw them. I needed to do more world-building, and I used to dread it, but now, I lovvee it :) It's so much fun!

    But that is tons different than real researching. Hehe, have fun :) I like it where I can make up my own facts :)

  2. @SC Author

    I know what you mean! Even in a make-believe world some aspects of it ring true and the accuracy will be picked apart by some people.

    I feel the pressure a lot because there are real people out there with this job and I don't want to portray them in a false light. Obviously I am gonna take some creative liberties for story purposes, but for the most part I'd like to get it all right. *sigh*

  3. Yay! You made me even more excited to read your novel.

    And man, fantasy writing actually involves a TON of research. You have to research mythology, so you understand the way certain creatures are typically viewed. I've had to research things like the stages of decaying bodies because I was writing about necromancers, different types of poisons, the effect on our bodies, so on and so forth.

    I actually love researching though, but am not positive I do enough of it unfortunately. =(

  4. Another fantasy writer excited that I wouldn't have to do research.

    So there's this fruit called baobab, right? lol Because I wanted to have weird, rare earth-like things in this non-earth, and so I picked the baobab. Hearing that it was high in Vitamin C, I thought its pulp was like lemons and oranges. Not so. Dry cubes. Then, I learn through other pictures, that the cubes aren't always cubes. -_- It never ends.

    I've had to research languages, animals...Good writers must research, and I guess I want to be one. X)

  5. While I agree research is the basis for writing any book, with fantasy books there is some leverage.

    While I had to read up on trees to create my world, my research from there-on revolved mainly around what I was postulating. And making sure my own 'laws' were holding tight.

    Then again, good research always shines through. Case in point, Dan Brown.

  6. @E.B Black Yay! That makes me excited that you are excited, haha! And I have to say, that from what I've read of yours so far, you've done an excellent job on researching in your novel. It really sounds like you know your stuff!

    @Debra McKellan So true. I think even if you vow off researching for a novel, it will always come back and bite you in the butt! There seems to always be something that you just need to know that little bit more about.

    @Utsav Good research definitely always stands out, and I personally enjoy reading a book where I'm enjoying a fictional work but also feel like I'm learning something I would have otherwise never known about.

    P.S. Sorry I have to respond like this guys, my layout doesn't have the reply button :( .


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